The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team will be taking its largest contingent in recent memory to the state meet this weekend in Palmer.
Even though each region's number of automatic berths was cut this year from two athletes per region to just one in individual events, Juneau will be taking 20 athletes to the meet Friday and Saturday at Palmer High School.
``This is the most we've ever taken,'' Juneau coach Tracy Rivera said. ``Usually we're about 17 to 19, but this year we're right at 20. I think it's all our relays that qualified.''
The Crimson Bears will be one of four teams that swept both the boys and girls titles in their region meets heading to state. Juneau joins Region III champ Colony, Region IV champ Bartlett and Region VI champ West Valley as dual champions.
Bartlett and Colony will probably be the favored teams. Bartlett is the defending girls team state champion and Colony is the defending boys titlist. Not only do both teams have tremendous depth entering the state meet, but both teams picked up several top seeds. Bartlett has a chance to win both team titles, which would return the Golden Bears to the state dominance they enjoyed when their boys and girls track teams combined to win 16 titles in the 1980s.
With Bartlett and Colony dominating the top seedings, that leaves most of the Southeast teams looking for event victories instead of team titles.
The only Southeast athlete to pick up a top seed is Petersburg junior Amber Beardslee, who set a Region V record in the high jump last week with a jump of 5 feet, 2 inches. Beardslee's height, which she's done twice this season, is the top high jump of the year by a half-inch. Beardslee also qualified for state in the triple jump and in the discus.
``Beardslee could do really well,'' Rivera said.
Beardslee said she's looking forward to the state meet, where she wants to see if she can challenge the 1983 state record of 5-6 by Soldotna's Renae Pickarsky.
``I'm looking to do good,'' Beardslee said. ``I want to go 5-4, and if I make it I want to go for the record. I'll have the bar set at 5-6.''
Beardslee isn't the only Petersburg athlete who could challenge for a state title. Petersburg sophomore Eva Medalen jumped 32-2 last week to win the region title, with a twisted ankle, but that's more than two feet off the 34-11 she jumped last year to finish fifth in the state. Only one jumper in the state has gone 34 feet this year (Meghan McGuire of West Anchorage at 34-6), so if Medalen can match her personal record she stands a decent chance to win the title.
``I'm looking for Eva to get off a good jump this week,'' Petersburg coach Brad Taylor said. ``She's not been feeling well all season. She's allergic to the new carpet in the school, and that has kind of affected her.''
Another state title contender from Southeast is Haines freshman Sarah Lende, who broke the Region V record last weekend in the 400 meters with a time of 1 minute, 0.25 seconds in the preliminaries (her time in the finals was 1:00.80). Lende also won the 800 meters in a time that's within five seconds of the top-seeded time, but she decided to only run the 400 at state. Lende's time is currently seeded fifth, but she's within striking distance of top-seeded Michelle Edwards of Kenai who has a top time of 59.74.
Lende suffers from painful knees due to a condition called Osgar-Slaughter Syndrome, which is caused by growing too fast as a youngster, and she said she's looking forward to being able to run on the rubberized track at Palmer. In Southeast all the tracks are asphalt, which results in slower times and many cases of shin splints.
``I went up there for cross country, and I had a chance to run on their track,'' Lende said. ``It was like, `Whoa,' this is going to be fun. I'm hoping to run a 59 up at state. That's my ultimate goal.''
Geoff Nordlund of Ketchikan, who qualified for state in three events, posted a time in the Region V preliminaries that would have been the top-seeded time for the boys 110-meter high hurdles. Nordlund's seed time is 16.35 seconds, which ranks third, but his preliminary time of 15.87 would be the top seed time. Nordlund also qualified for state in the 100 meters and the long jump, both as Region V champion.
``I want to do top-three at least in the hurdles,'' Nordlund said. ``I went to state last year and took fifth (in the long jump) and I'd like to move up.''
Ella Allred of Haines and Breea DeSloover of Juneau rank among the top contenders in the girls 3,200 meters, with Allred edging out DeSloover by just 0.07 seconds for the Region V title. Their times rank fifth and sixth, but they're within three seconds of the thirdbest time.
Rivera said one of Juneau's top contenders is junior Adriana Rodriguez, who is the seventh-seeded runner in the girls 200 meters. He also feels Juneau might get medals from junior Clay Brown in the triple jump, Brandy Weston in the girls 1,600 meters and possibly by one of its relay teams.
``Adriana could be in there,'' Rivera said. ``She'll be running on a much nicer surface. Maybe Adriana, she's our best shot. Clay Brown has been doing well in the jumps. He's been coming on every week. And Brandy, it's hard to say. She's been coming on every meet.''
Juneau is taking six different relay teams to the state meet, but its best chance at a state title might come in the boys 4x800-meter relay. The quartet of Jeremy Carpenter, Wesley Brooks, Jesse Stringer and Corey Denton didn't have any challenges in setting a Region V record last weekend, and Rivera said he feels the squad's time could improve with more competition.
Another relay team with a decent chance to medal (finish in the top four) is the Juneau girls 4x100meter relay team of Brittany Troutt, Emily Krehlik, Sarah Ballard and Adriana Rodriguez (Sarah Elliot and Claire Martin are alternates).